With Nashville taking the early 1-0 series lead, the Sharks looked to take a split in Music City and give themselves home ice advantage for the rest of the series. It was Vesa Toskala’s turn to shine, as the netminder led the Sharks to a 3-0 victory over the Predators, brining the series back to San Jose tied at one.
Ron Wilson sent out the Joe Thornton
line to start the game just as he had in Game One, along with Tom Preissing and Christian Ehrhoff on the blueline. Toskala and Chris Mason took their positions in the pipes as they are expected to do for the series.
Back-to-back minor penalties to Mike Sillinger and Danny Markov gave San Jose 1:39 of five-on-three time early in the first and the Sharks power play jumped at the opportunity. Wilson made the strategic move to return Patrick Marleau
to the power play point and it paid immediate dividends.
Holding the puck an the right side of the ice, the Sharks captain froze Mason by faking a pass that was to be aimed at Nils Ekman but then perfectly delivered a pass to an unnoticed Jonathan Cheechoo, who was parked to the left of the net. The NHL’s leading scorer simply angled his stick to deflect the puck into the back of the net.
On the defensive end, the Sharks killed off the first two Nashville power plays, a specialty the Predators feasted on for three first period goals in the series opener. The Sharks were noticeably more aggressive in attacking the Nashville point men.
Late in the opening period, Nashville began showing why they were among the NHL’s leaders in penalty minutes when a second set of back-to-back penalties provided Team Teal with a second five-on-three. This one would last for 56 seconds, but the Sharks would need just 15 seconds to make the lead 2-0 as Wilson employed his timeout to discuss the set up. Joe Thornton
attempted to find Cheechoo through the slot but a Nashville redirect through the crease prevented the easy tap in. But as Cheechoo and Ekman fought to jam the puck in shortside, it popped out to an open Patrick Marleau
in the slot who ripped it past the downed Mason.
Team Teal still had 1:45 of five-on-four time and they moved the lead to three. This time, Cheechoo took advantage of a stick-less Nashville defender, guarding Mark Smith on the far side. Cheechoo deftly fed the puck to Smith and before Mason could slide over, “Smitty” had his second goal of the series.
San Jose had matched the Predators goal total from the first period of Game One and in addition, managed to keep Nashville off the board.
Early in the second stanza, Marleau continued his strong play as he, Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier worked a cycle down low, but when the wingers found Marleau in the slot, his shot was just high.
When Nashville took to their fourth power play midway through the game, the Sharks barely even let them set up in the zone, a stark disappointment for the home crowd who were expecting a gold rush similar to the opening contest. From Nashville’s standpoint, they at least kept the Sharks from scoring any more power play tallies. The second stanza ended as the first did, with San Jose up 3-0.
The third began with San Jose finishing out a man-advantage, but could not put the fourth tally up.
Jordin Tootoo pumped some life into the quiet GEC crowd with 14 remaining in the game. He delivered a few hits and drew a penalty on one shift. That power play concluded just as all Predator advantages had to that point – without a goal and with several blocked shots.
Midway through the third, back-to-back minor penalties to Michalek and Nieminen set Nashville up with 1:25 of five-on-three time, but more blocked shots and some stellar saves by Toskala kept the shutout in tact.
Michalek nearly extended San Jose’s lead to four when he battled Tootoo for a puck in the neutral zone and headed in on a breakaway. But just like in game one, Mason was up to the task and stoned Michalek’s attempt.
With 4:10 left, Weber was sent to the box for holding Smith and the Sharks went back on the power play, but San Jose couldn’t capitalize.
With 57 seconds remaining in Game 2, Josh Gorges was penalized. That coupled with Mason leaving the net made the game a six-on-four, but Nashville couldn’t solve Toskala, as the netminder posted his first playoff victory in earning the 3-0 shutout.
The Sharks will return home to HP Pavilion Tuesday night when they play host to the Predators in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on the Sharks Radio Network and sjsharks.com.